Gifts bring holiday cheer

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COLUMBIA - It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for families living below the poverty line, the holiday season can be difficult.

That’s where the Voluntary Action Center steps in.

This year marks the 33rd annual Holiday Program, which pairs selected Boone County families in need with a Secret Santa. On Thursday, families were invited to Trinity Presbyterian Church to pick up their holiday gifts.

Jackie Wilmes, who serves at the Holiday Program coordinator, said gifts are given based on what a family includes on their wishlist.

Family member’s clothing sizes and other household needs are included on wishlists. Toys and bicycles are also added. The lists are then given to community members who “sponsor” a family and purchase the gifts.

Wilmes said the people who sponsor families range across the board.

“Groups from MU, groups from high schools here in town, churches here in town,” she said. “It’s a wide range of all sorts of individuals who sponsor.

Wilmes said she’s noticed how the holidays put people in the giving spirit.

“People just get so generous and they’re so excited about it and it’s awesome to see,” she said.

The Holiday Program is an anonymous program, so the identities of the families and sponsors are kept confidential.

With 943 families involved this year, Wilmes said volunteers help keep the program running smoothly.

Sarah Flood, who works as the Holiday Intern at the VAC, has noticed the volunteer’s dedication firsthand.

“People are all very positive, happy to be here and willing to do anything,” Flood said.

She said seeing the families receive the gifts make her job worthwhile.  

“Our clients are people who really need it, who really deserve to have a nice Christmas,” Flood said.

For more information about the services provided by the Voluntary Action Center, visit the Facebook page here.

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